There seems to be a genetically encoded need for human beings to share new information with each other. It's a good thing, I'm sure, accounting, in so small part, for our continuing growth as a species. So innate is this need to share, that it frequently trumps any attempts we might make to determine the relevance, value, or accuracy of the information we so gleefully exchange.

I suppose the same could be said about jokes and games - hard to keep a good one to yourself. But here, in this collection of "Ponderables," we see how far beyond mere humor this need and corresponding glee extends.

One of my favorite sections in this formidable collection is called "Things You Never Knew." Not only are these things you probably never knew, not only are these things you problably will never need to know, but also and especially are these things that you will find yourself delightfully obliged to tell everyone you know. For the sake of clarification and edification, I conclude with a randomly select few:
Camel's milk does not curdle.
In every episode of Seinfeld there is a Superman somewhere.
An animal epidemic is called an epizootic.
Murphy's Oil Soap is the chemical most commonly used to clean elephants.
The United States has never lost a war in which mules were used.
Blueberry Jelly Bellies were created especially for Ronald Reagan.
All porcupines float in water.
Hang On Snoopy is the official rock song of Ohio.

Thanks for the find, Presurfer


King of the Mountain and Corporate America

Today's FunCast draws a surprisingly informative connection between the children's game of King of the Mountain and the bizarre nature of corporate America, one might say.


Language Log and Snowclones

My friend Charles Parsons, who's off the Internet and actually reads magazines, sent me an article that he had, yes, cut out of a paper-based publication. The article mentioned something about the "Language Log."

It was while I was reading the Language Log that I learned about Snowclones. O, I learned about many things linguistic, that is true. I learned about president Bush's use of expletives and about the new rulings by PBS to assure that expletives are more effectively bleeped. And I learned about someone named H. Saucy at a publication apparently called Print Culture who asked readers to come up with bumper stickers that express two opposite political sentiments at once, like "MY OTHER HUMMER IS A PRIUS." But it was the snowclone that did it for me - reminded me how the study of language fosters playfulness, wit and related forms of jolly madness.

"Snowclone," I quote, Wikipedially, "is a neologism used to describe a type of formula-based cliché which uses an old idiom in a new context. The term emphasizes the use of a familiar (and often particular) formula and previous cultural knowledge of the reader to express information about an idea....A common example of a snowclone is 'X is the new Y,' which can be applied by inserting words or phrases for X and Y, 'cloning' the trope of the original expression, 'pink is the new black.' For instance, this snowclone might appear as 'Random is the New Order,' a marketing phrase for the iPod shuffle."

Further, it appears that "Geoffrey Pullum on the blog Language Log (op. cit.) had prompted the invention of snowclone, in his search for a name for 'a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different jokey variants by lazy journalists and writers.' So, self-evidently, what comes around gets back to you.

Clearly, the Language Log is the new Elements of Style, and Geoffrey Pullum the Internet's answer to both Strunk and White. Even more clearly, there's a lot of fun to be had and awareness to be gained, equally therein and by.

Games Seniors Play

This week's newsletter started with a link to this article in Newsday - Racing to Play. It's about the kinds of games seniors play. You know what kinds the reporter talks about? The Mah Jong, Scrabble, Bingo kinds. The reporter actually interviewed me. She had already done a lot of research and was convinced that she had a fundamental grasp of what seniors (that's me, too, you know) play.

Me, I was horrified. Here's the only quote she got out of me:
"Fun is "noble" in the eyes of California-based game-maker and guru Bernie DeKoven, 64. "I think a lot of older people are reclaiming their need to play," he said, "and they're looking for opportunity and finding places that foster a certain amount of playfulness."
You can almost hear the horror.

I received a couple of wonderful responses from subscribers, and I wanted to share them with you.

The first came from George Platts, long time friend and renown artist of fun, who coined the term "Everlasting Games:
"I've been playing and inventing wacky games for groups of seniors to play for over ten years.

"'Seated Hockey' almost got out of hand it was SO physical. The other hospital staff could not believe it (how fun it was). The seniors really enjoyed it. We played hard. We played fair. Nobody was hurt. That's easy, if you have the know how.

"'Bean Bag Bin' was specially designed because a number of the seniors were blind or partially sighted. Two lines seated opposite each other. A thrower. A catcher. Thrower tosses a heavyish bean bag. Catcher uses a metal trash can. If the thrower is blind, the catcher can move the trash can. If the catcher is blind, the thrower can aim well enough. The bean bag dropping into the metal trash can makes a very satisfying noise (and doesn't bounce out). Each thrower has three turns then the bean bags and trash can ('bin' in English) move to the next pair alternating thrower-catcher between teams. When it gets to the end of the line everybody stands up and changes to the next seat in line (each team in an opposite direction - the end people have a longer walk; good exercise) and the second round begins with people facing different opponents . . . and so it goes. Brilliant."
And from Jac Rongen, these wonderfully affirming photos.



Think of perhaps shuffleboard with dice. Think, for example, of a shuffleboard that is on five levels, with, where there were once pucks to slide, dice to, well, slide perhaps or flick or shove. A shuffleboard looking pretty much exactly like this.

Think further of the role, or roll, of luck - how the dice, even though you try to slide them everso carefully, tend to change faces when they descend a level. There's an intimation of the possibility that one could control all of this, making the die land 6-up even by the time it reaches the X4 level after having knocked all the opponents' dice to off-table oblivion. On the other hand, there's an unavoidable element of luck which makes a 7-year-old often as successful as a 57-year-old. Think of this, and you'll understand, almost immediately, why Tumblin' Dice has received a Major Fun Family Game award.

If you know shuffleboard, you'll know how to play Tumblin' Dice. When I introduced the game at the Tasting, I asked my fellow Tasters to play the game without looking at the rules. With almost no discussion, they played almost exactly the way the designer had intended them to. Because the game was so easy to figure out, it is exceptionally welcome in a variety of settings, especially recreation centers, classrooms and my house.

Speaking of classrooms, the game requires enough arithmetical calculations to make it actually useful in almost any elementary school setting. When a die lands in special scoring sections of the board, the face value of the die is multiplied by a given factor. So, in figuring out a total score players exercise both additional and multiplication, and, one might argue, even algebraic skills.

But don't let its educational implications fool you. Tumblin-Dice is an invitation to minutes or hours of play, for kids, for adults, for the whole darn community. Did I mention adults? The kind of adults who might be interested in playing, um, professionally?

It's made as well as it plays - a big, polished, two-piece all wood, table-worthy game that you might never put away. Ever.

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FUN Bucks

The Fun Buck of J. S. Boggs. Allow me to explain: fun as in FUN, as in the FUN, or Florida United Nimismatists, Inc. And that's the FUN Buck, by Boggs, J. S. Boggs, the money artist, as Judith Christensen explains:

"He draws money: francs when in Switzerland, dollars in the U.S., pound notes when in England. He doesn't sell his drawings. That's rule number one. Instead he 'spends' them. That's rule number two. So far, he's spent about $250,000 worth of Boggs' bills. Now, does that figure refer to the face value of those bills? Or does it refer to how much they're worth? Even the most elementary statement about Boggs' artwork launches an inquiry into the nature of money, monetary transactions, value, art, abstraction, representation and reproduction. Therein lies its seductive power: it's a simple idea with vast and complex implications. Yet, it's accessible. Everyone uses money; everyone talks about it."

FunCast: Of Love and Play

Today's FunCast is about love and play and my amazement that we can do either, let alone both, at all. It begins thus:
"The only time we can truly play together is when we play together as equals. What especially interests me is that we can do this even though we are not equal at all. When the old are playing with the young, the abled with the disabled, the expert with the novice, the human with the animal - as long as we share the same rules, as long as we can somehow agree that we will treat each other fairly, that, despite any "real" differences, we will not overpower each other, not allow the inequalities to surface; we can play as if there were nothing dividing us, nothing separating, nothing differentiating."


Knot Zoo

Knot Zoo. Not, as you might easily conclude from the accompanying image, what you might call a real "zoo," actually. More like, shall we say, a "petting zoo."

"Petting Zoo?" you exclaim! "A petting zoo for knots!" you sputter in raucous disbelief?

"OK," I respond, daringly. "Go ahead. Click for example knot herein aligned right. Especially if you're amongst the Java-enabled many. Click and behold, after a while, depending on the broadness of your band, that very knot, rotatable. With your very mouse. 360 veritable degrees. Drag and wonder!"

The Knot Zoo. Not a zoo, in the traditional sense at all. More, you see, a Knot Petting Zoo than a Zoo at all.

Thanks again Grow-a-Brain.



My old friend Charles Parsons, a logophile (a lover of words, as defined in this collection of nynonyms) of the first water, so to speak, sent me an article from the July 8th issue of NewScientist in which the new paleontological word Thagomizer was defined. Wondering if it had yet made it into the Wikipedia, I searched, and almost immediately found Thagomizer, itself. I quote in an extracting manner:
"The thagomizer is the arrangement of four to ten spikes on the tail of particular dinosaurs, like the famous Stegosaurus, in the clade Stegosauria. The tail is believed to be a defensive weapon against predators.

"The term 'thagomizer' originated as a joke from a Far Side comic strip by Gary Larson, in which a group of cavemen in a lecture hall are taught by their caveman professor that the spikes were named in honor of the late Thag Simmons (the implication being that the Thagomizer was responsible for Thag's death, along with the typical Larson out-of-context joke that suggested cavemen might have modern surnames).

"Whatever was the original word for the stegosaurus' spiked tail, if it indeed ever had one, 'thagomizer' has, since the Far Side publication, been adopted as a genuine anatomical term, and is used by multiple palaeontological authorities, including the Smithsonian Institution."
Finding this conclusive affirmation of the power of comic mind, wherever it may so manifest, doth massage the very ventricles of my play-prone heart.

And all our things are dominoes

In this inspiring video we are privileged to witness the reality-transforming powers of the playful mind. CDs, VHS tapes, books, boxes, cigarette lighters, cereal boxes, soap - all fodder for those who have grasped the fundamental dominoness of it all.

thanks Milk and Cookies


Staredown? you ask. Yes, staredown, I respond. Staredown the children's game. Staredown the sport. Staredown the contest of wills. Professional staredown, such as the very same championed by the National Association of Staredown Professionals themselves.

The game. The sheer drama of it. As shown so compassionately in the freely downloadable documentary Unflinching Triumph.

Have no one to practice with? Click on over to a Virtual Staredown.

Thanks for the find, funscout Alex.


A FunCast about Ordinary Fun

Today's FunCast is about at least two kinds of fun - extreme fun, and ordinary fun. It turns out that ordinary fun has: a) little or no commercial appeal, and 2) the power to sustain life. You can read more here, if more is what you need to read.


Animated, tesselated fun

Tesselating Animations

Just one more of those wonderful fun things you can find in the DeepFUN Things section.

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Temporary art

Food sculptures by Jim Victor, "Sculptor-Constructivist," redefine what playing with food is all about.

I'm forever touched and amazed by what you might call "temporary art." From the mystical beauty of Sand painting to the fragile spectacle of Ice Sculpture.

As with all art, it's a question of taste. And for me, the tastiest of temporary arts can be found in the clearly consummable delights I find in the delicate delicacies of coffee and food art.

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A pick-up game in Kashmir

The culture-bridging gifts of play are everywhere apparent (except perhaps in certain government offices). Here's a story of one such experience, found in an article called "Kashmir: The Soccer War - Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News":
"...They ask me if I know how to play soccer. I tell them I know a little and we begin to kick around the ball, keeping it airborne between us using our feet, knees and heads.

"Without even realizing the transition, I'm actually not working anymore. I'm playing. I have not played on the road, I think, since a brief game of three on three basketball in Iran.

"I become aware, not acutely, just casually, that I'm actually having fun on a sunny afternoon in Kashmir even though I'm thousands of miles away from where I would normally be having fun on another sunny afternoon, running or biking near my home in the U.S.

"These high school boys don't want to talk about my work, they just want to know a little bit about how I live, what's different about Kashmir from America.

"After a while we don't have to talk at all. We just kick the ball back and forth.

"These boys, because of their curiosity, caught the gringo, got him to engage, and for that, they earned the attention and respect of others who come to join us. Some of those who gather around are other kids, but also a handful of adults still in possession of some tricky footwork they had when they were younger.

"We are, despite the language and cultural difference, joined in this play. For a moment, I begin to feel something. It's not dramatic, not a revelation, maybe just a connection. And for me, at this moment, that's enough."

Thanks to Funscout Katherine Morales


Food Games - the FunCast

Today's long-awaited FunCast is about playing with your food. Two, as a matter of fact, food games, for your merry munching.

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Napkin Folding 101

Napkin Folding 101 - eleven different ways to fold a dinner napkin, including the significantly lovely napkin rose.

A humble art, you might say, but that is precisely the point, isn't it? A playful art, you might therefor conclude. Yes, in deed and even more precisely exactly the point. The playfulness manifest by making an art out of the mundane. And the playfulness of those who appreciate and nurture such playfulness, and the art thereof.


Playground :: Rejuvenile by Christopher Noxon

Christopher Noxon's new book, "Rejuvenile" describes:
"a new breed of adult, identified by a commitment to remain playful, energetic and fun in the face of adult responsibilities. Whether buying cars marketed to consumers half their age, dressing in baby-doll fashions or bonding over games like Twister or stick ball, this new band of grownups refuses to give up childish things they never stopped loving, or else revels in things they were denied or never got around to as children. Most have busy lives and adult responsibilities. Many have children of their own. They are not stunted adolescents. They are something new: rejuveniles."
On his website, Noxon goes to significant lengths to present and extend the spirit of his vision. The Playground section is a collection of links to some of his more delicously playful discoveries. As he says: "Go forth and explore the rejuvenile universe. Here are some must-sees along the way."



Should you find yourself great with family, wandering winsomely amongst the vast and half-vast hordes of Independence celebrators, seeking some activity, any activity, to while away the minutes before the fireworks fully festivate, you may discover sweet solace in a Junkyard Sport known as:

Shoreshoes - a beachwalking game by Bernie and Rocky DeKoven, who were, at the time, walking on the beach and carrying their shoes. Well, Bernie had shoes. Athletic shoes, even. With long laces. And Rocky had a pair of sandals.

1. look for a space in front of you that's free of people and birds
2. toss Rocky's sandals - both sandals, both people, 1 per person, simultaneously.
3. hold one of Bernie's sneakers by its lace end, twirl and toss towards one of Rocky's sandals (simultaneously, or take turns, or both)
4. the player who tosses a sneaker closest to a sandal wins and gets a free back strecth while picking up the shoes and sandals
5. play the next round


Play! The Art of the Game

Play! The Art of the Game is a new exhibit at the Cobra museum in Amstelveen (near Amsterdam). According to the promotional description, the exhibit "reveals that play and playfulness are inextricably linked to the art of our time. There are marked parallels between the areas of art and play. Both are separate from everyday working life, are self-regulating, irrational and aimed at pleasure."

Though I've often written about the play/art connection, the following description is a far more informed, and useful overview of the influence of one over the other:
"Game and play have been defining impulses for major 20th and 21st artists. Innovative thinking and the experiment were their guiding principles. Marcel Duchamp dedicated himself to the game of chess and gambling, Hans Arp, Hugo Ball and Kurt Schwitters aspired to a more playful interpretation of the concept of art by using word games and chance, the Fluxus artist George Maciunas made a funny-looking ping-pong table, in their film 'The Way Things Go' Fischli & Weiss play around with the concepts of action and reaction, Jean Tinguely made moving constructions while Laurel & Hardy act like children in the film 'Brats'."
Thanks to fun scout Martin Booman for this find.

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